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Education, inspiration and innovation – 3 ingredients to kick start omega-3 category growth

■       Engaging key HCP influencers to influence patient recommendations

■       Consumer marketing to focus on health, wellness and longevity benefits

■       Product innovation, not discounting, required to win at retail

Omega-3 is essential for our long-term health and wellbeing and there are over 5,000 scientific publications on this topic1​. Yet the category is not growing as strongly as anticipated. One hypothesis suggests this is largely driven by consumer confusion, caused by what they read in the media and inconsistent advice from healthcare professionals. They also face a huge selection of undifferentiated omega-3s instore, with little support on how to shop the category other than price discounts. BASF believes the omega-3 category is capable of significant growth but will need to motivate a new generation of consumers through more effective education and engagement with all key influencers and audiences, underpinned by superior product innovation.

 1.    HCP education on proven omega-3 benefits will influence consumer behavior

The biggest challenge is to persuade consumers to make omega-3 supplements part of their daily regime. Primary care health professionals (HCPs), such as general practitioners or pharmacists, play a key role in day-to-day health management and at least a third of consumers start taking omega-3s as a result of HCP recommendation2​. However, usage of omega-3 supplements is low: for example, 60% of US consumers are aware that they may benefit from supplementing their diet with omega-3 – yet only 20% use them3​. ​ Given HCP influence on health conditions associated with omega-3 benefits, from heart health, joint care, cognition, pregnancy and children’s development, to immunity-related complaints like colds and flu, engaging this audience is a clear opportunity.

GOED visual

Identifying the most effective HCP communication targets is crucial. A GOED Exchange 2018 Review revealed a quarter of focused patient discussions with HCPs about omega-3s occur in the pharmacy, with the remainder spread across other influencers, including doctors, family and friends and complementary therapists4​. In response to the findings, GOED has launched the ‘Fats of Life’ Continuing Education 12 month program aimed at US pharmacists and nurse practitioners5​. GOED Executive Director Ellen Schutt explains: “We spent significant time on research to determine the best audience within the practitioner community. Omega-3 education for both healthcare professionals and consumers is so important. Omega-3s have so many benefits and our industry needs to share this information with healthcare practitioners, key opinion leaders and ultimately the consumer. Over time, we’d like to expand geographies as well as consider other doctor audiences.”

Pharmacy Times,​ the leading US professional pharmacy publication, has also noted the growing need for HCP support. Ed Cohen, a pharmacist at the magazine explains: “Due to the demand for information around omega-3 products, Pharmacy Times now has a Resource Center devoted to this topic. Our readers have told us this keeps the information top of mind to understand and drive product selection when patients present with questions.”6

A concluding implication is that omega-3 brand owners would benefit by allocating a percentage of marketing budgets to HCP education. To make HCPs aware of omega-3 innovation and therefore recommend products and best practice to patients, brands would add value to the work of GOED, Pharmacy Times​ and others by supporting HCP accredited training and development initiatives. This could include sponsoring education modules on related omega-3 benefits, such as heart, brain or maternity and complementing them with branded patient education materials.

2.    Benefit-led omega-3 marketing will drive consumer motivation and usage

Consumer marketing has an equally important role to play in helping consumers move from increased awareness and knowledge of omega-3s, to usage. However, judging by comparative growth trends7​, consumer marketing in adjacent sub-categories such as probiotics, vitamin D and protein supplements would seem to be working more efficiently than in omega-3s. Probiotics have also acquired a certain gloss through the support and advocacy of major Hollywood celebrities.

Even if omega-3 lacks box office support, from a science and technology perspective this is an exciting time for omega-3, yet consumers appear to be no more aware of the health, wellbeing and longevity benefits. Around 39% of omega-3 users report they take supplements for specific health reasons, with heart health at the top of the list2​. Yet despite this, cardiovascular disease remains the biggest global killer, responsible for almost a third of all deaths8​. Are omega-3 brands therefore taking sufficient advantage of the opportunity to drive awareness of omega-3’s multiple benefits, in order to better influence consumer behavior?

3.    Superior omega-3 products with relevant and inspiring benefits will drive volume and value growth

In recent times, omega-3 developments have focused almost exclusively on ‘strength’. However, there has been arguably little in the way of relevant, consumer-focused product innovation offering genuinely superior omega-3 performance. It’s no coincidence the category has fallen into a price promotion spiral, given non-differentiated products, limited HCP recommendations and a lack of motivating marketing. This vicious cycle may help to explain why over a third of consumers currently think omega-3 supplementation is unnecessary2​.

For new products and benefits to re-inspire the category, they need to be easily understood and ultimately, deliver. Latest BASF scientific research suggests EPA and DHA fatty acids must be absorbed into our body much more efficiently than most in-market supplements currently achieve, to ensure optimization of the key nutrients9​. BASF consumer research supports this premise, with new omega-3 absorption concepts quantitatively tested as market-ready opportunities across multiple geographies10​.

Three components required to ignite omega-3 ‘virtuous growth cycle’

iStock- pharmacist with fish oil capsule

Øyvind Ihle, Global Marketing Director B2C, Human Nutrition at BASF comments: “We believe the opportunity to ignite a ‘virtuous growth cycle’ for the omega-3 supplement category has three main components: firstly, educating HCPs and giving them the tools to influence consumer behavior; secondly, better consumer marketing to motivate people to use and benefit from omega-3 supplements; thirdly, product superiority from innovation, which underpins everything and will also encourage forward-thinking retailers to stop relying on discounts and focus on a new generation of technology and benefits. If all category stakeholders are able to adopt a new growth mindset such as this and start to reinvest in the necessary activities, the category will grow to the benefit of all​.”

Accelon offers innovative solution for brand owners

BASF, an omega-3 pioneer since 1838, continuously innovates to offer new and better omega-3 product solutions for brand owners by improving, among others, quality and absorption.

Accelon, the latest omega-3 innovation from BASF, is a breakthrough absorption technology, the world’s first clinically proven to increase absorption of EPA and DHA at a cellular level. Accelon therefore more reliably delivers the promised benefits consumers expect and HCPs require to substantiate their recommendations.

Data from two single dose crossover studies show BASF’s new Accelon delivers a minimum of four times better absorption of omega-3 on an empty stomach in comparison to the same omega-3 oils without Accelon technology9​. The result is higher delivery of EPA and DHA to cells throughout the body. Even if taken with food, omega-3 absorption with Accelon is still 30% greater than with other omega-3s9​.


  1. PubMed Database. “omega-3[Title]” [ Online 09 October 2018 ]. Retrieved at
  2.  ‘Key Do’s & Don’ts of Marketing Omega-3s’  GOED Survey Report, GOED Exchange 2015
  3. Nielsen BASES USA, Feb 2014
  4. Shutt, E. GOED Exchange 2018. ‘Health Practitioners as Influencers.’ Sources: 2013 US NAMCS Survey, 2013 APhA Annual OTC Survey, BLS, NCCIH, DSM Survey
  5. Continuing Education Program for pharmacists; online:
  6. Online link to Resource Center:
  7. Euromonitor: 2017 Global Vitamins and Dietary Supplements ($ CAGR 2012-2017: Omega-3 +2%, Probiotics +10.2%, Vitamin D +7.4%, Protein + 5.8%)
  8. WHO Fact Sheet updated 17 May 2017. Online:
  9. Qin, Y. (2017). A novel self-micro-emulsifying delivery system (SMEDS) formulation significantly improves the fasting absorption of EPA and DHA from a single dose of an omega-3 ethyl ester concentrate.​ Lipids Health Dis; 16: 204.
  10. Concept Research Reports June 2016, December 2017, October 2018, Ink Research, London UK

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